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Lamp recycling rate up as UK reaches ‘peak lamp WEEE’

Lamp recycling rate up as UK reaches ‘peak lamp WEEE’
The recycling rate for lamps and luminaires (electrical devices used to create artificial light using electric lamps) rose in 2016, with the UK’s largest lamp collection service saying that we have now reached ‘peak lamp WEEE’.

Statistics released this month by the Environment Agency (EA) suggest that 47.5 per cent of waste lamps were recycled in 2016, up nearly four per cent from 43.6 per cent in 2015.

The luminaire rate also increased over the course of the year from 4.4 per cent to 7.1 per cent. The recycling rate for these products is much lower than for lamps as many are returned as scrap metal, and are therefore not reported and recycled as waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

The rates recorded by the EA take into account the WEEE placed on the market, and are calculated by dividing the tonnage of WEEE reported by producer compliance schemes (PCS) by the tonnage of equipment placed on the market by producers in the same year. They do not, therefore, include WEEE that is not covered by producer obligations.

Under laws regulating WEEE, producers of such products have to sign up to recycling schemes to ensure that a certain proportion of the material they make each year is collected and recycled.

Lamp recycling has almost doubled in the last six years, according to figures released last summer, with Recolight, the UK’s largest lamp recycling scheme, recycling almost one lamp every second. This near doubling (from 26.0 per cent in 2010) comes despite a new measurement method that came into effect in 2014, taking into account LED lamps as well as the traditional gas discharge lamps and causing the rate to drop from 52.8 per cent in 2013 to 29.3 per cent the next year.

This change caused an immediate and inevitable drop, says Nigel Harvey, CEO of Recolight, as very large quantities of LEDs are sold, but very few were returned as WEEE.

Lamp recycling rate up as UK reaches ‘peak lamp WEEE’

Peak lamp WEEE

Commenting on the EA’s statistics, Harvey said: “It is pleasing to see that the lamp recycling rate in 2016 has continued to grow from 2015. During 2016, Recolight was particularly active in expanding our free of charge recycling service, and this has undoubtedly contributed to the growth.

“In Recolight’s view, we have now reached peak lamp WEEE. In future years, we expect the tonnage of waste lamps to decline, as fluorescent are increasingly replaced by longer-life LEDs. This may have an impact on recycling rates in the longer term.”

This suggestion is reflected in the government’s proposed target for lamp recycling in 2017 being lower than in 2016. The suggested target is 6,009 tonnes, 13 per cent lower than the 2016 target of 6,882 tonnes and two per cent lower than the actual tonnage collected last year. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is now consulting with producers and PCSs on the proposed targets.

Focusing on luminaires, Harvey said that expansions to collection services to facilitate greater recovery of the items are behind the 61 per cent increase from 4.4 to 7.1 per cent between 2015 and 2016. He said: “In 2016, Recolight further expanded the service it provides the customers of its members. Many of Recolight’s members undertaking larger, multi-site LED luminaire rollouts now benefit from the onsite collection of the waste lamps, traditional fittings and batteries that arise.”

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